The Undeniable Connection Between Rosacea And Gut Health
As someone struggling with sensitive and combination skin, I learned early on in life that what I ate and drank had a near-immediate effect on my skin. For a long time, however, I didn’t know why.
We’re told from a young age -usually around puberty, when skin concerns start to manifest more and more- that certain foods, like dairy and sweets, can cause skin problems, but it always seemed to me to be a roulette game of guessing what I should and should not eat, so I gave up trying to police myself altogether.
Turns out, the connection between your diet and skin concerns like acne, eczema, or rosacea is a little more complicated than you’d think. But the good news is, there’s lots you can do about it!
What is rosacea?
Rosacea is a skin condition affecting 415 million people worldwide, causing occasional or semi-permanent redness and flushing on the person’s face. A pinkish blush will form over the nose and cheeks, and spread to the forehead, chin, even ears, chest and back in some cases. Rosacea is mostly common in women and people with lighter skin, and while the root of its causes is unknown, studies have determined that triggers can include alcohol, spicy foods, cheese, caffeine, and hot drinks.
It can bear a similar appearance to acne, but actually, the two are very different conditions: over the counter treatments for acne can help clear it, but when it comes to rosacea, you might need a dermatologist’s help. There is currently no cure for rosacea, but treatment options include laser or topical creams. As it is a common disease, we know celebrities like Mariah Carey, Renée Zellweger, Cameron Diaz and even President Bill Clinton all suffer from rosacea.
What is gut health and why is it important?
The term “gut health” needs some demystification. Ever since it gained traction on social media platforms a few years ago, people seem to think it’s something complex and convoluted which we’ve only just discovered ––when in fact, all it refers to is the “function and balance of bacteria of the many parts of the gastrointestinal tract.”
Gut issues stem from an underperforming digestive track and can cause bloating, stomach-aches, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation and decreased energy. But gut health does not just impact good digestion: instead, it’s essential for our overall health, including our immune system and mental health.
When food is ingested, it begins a long process of being broken down into all the nutrients our body needs. Trillions of different species of microbes and bacteria, both healthy and potentially harmful ones, coexist peacefully within a healthy gut and contribute to each step of our digestion system.
But factors like stress, processed foods, poor diet high in fat or sugar, pollutants or lack of sleep can impact our gut health and compromise one or more steps of this process, which throws the body's balance into disarray. Medication like antibiotics and birth control can also affect our gut flora, when taken in excessive measure. For this reason, a course of probiotics is sometimes recommended when starting hormonal birth control, to keep the risk under control.
Once something disturbs the microbiome’s harmony, it makes us more susceptible to a wide range of diseases: including, new studies show, skin conditions like rosacea.
How does your gut health affect skin conditions like rosacea?
A 2017 study reports that “patients with rosacea have a higher prevalence of gastrointestinal disease, and one study reported improvement in rosacea following successful treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.” So while further research is needed on the role of the gut-skin connection in relation to rosacea, “patients may be advised on measures to support a healthy gut microbiome, including the consumption of a fibre-rich prebiotic diet.”
If you suffer from rosacea and experience symptoms like bloating, excess gas, cramps, diarrhoea, food intolerances, acid reflux, constipation and nausea, you might want to look into your gut health and take some tests, as you could find your complexion problems all derive from your diet and gut.
Psoriasis has also been associated with inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS,) counting as another link to the digestive system: we cannot overlook how what lives and happens in the gut seems to directly affect, among many other aspects, the skin.
Heal the gut and your skin will follow
Probiotics are your best friend when it comes to keeping your digestive flora under control, and thus improve your complexion and help clear it from inflammation. They’re incredibly common at any supermarket or health food store, and an easy and affordable way to support both our immune system and our skin at once.
As always, we should remember that no skin issue or gut issue can be examined on its own: a healthy lifestyle, complete with exercise, sleep, supplements and a rich and varied diet, is always the first key to prevent and treat many physical conditions.
You can also experiment with removing irritants from your diet, at least for a short while ––this includes caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and sometimes gluten or dairy. Sugar is also something to watch out for, as excessive amounts of it can feed microbes and make things worse. Ensure to swap these potential irritants with foods rich in omega 3, healthy fats, fibre, collagen and glutamine, as well as greens and fruits.
Now that you know how important your microbiome is and how it relates to skin conditions like rosacea, keeping your gut bacteria healthy might be the best new goal you can set for yourself this summer and beyond!